FOR the first time, a major step forward in the development of seabed mining is now in place with the granting of the mining lease to Nautilus Minerals for the development of the Solwara-1 project in the Bismarck Sea between New Ireland and New Britain, The National reports.
The mine operation, located 30km from the coast of New Ireland and at a depth of 1,600m, is expected to begin by the end of 2013 with the mining of “high grade” seafloor massive sulphide deposits that contain copper, gold, silver, zinc and lead.
While the project is unique as the world’s first seabed mine, the lease arrangements themselves are a reflection of the evolving legislative and regulatory process in PNG since the 1970s.
“This will enable us to avoid past experiences from the Ok Tedi and Bougainville mines,” senior technical assessment engineer with the Mineral Resources Authority Lyndah Brown-Kola said.
Brown-Kola was part of a team of government officials from PNG attending the deep sea mineral project workshop organised in Fiji by SOPAC, a division of the South Pacific Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
The team presented to the delegates the legislative and regulatory process in PNG that led to the granting of the seabed mineral mining lease.
Brown-Kola said the current legislative and regulatory review process was adequate to ensure that environmental, operational and financial concerns are addressed.
“We operate in conjunction with the Department of Mineral Policy and Geo-Hazards Management, which has responsibility of setting all mining policies. It is part of the mining ministerial portfolio.”
She said the government had been looking at the Solwara-1 project since 1997 and granted Nautilus the first offshore mineral exploration licence in 2008.
“We have been working with Nautilus for 14 years. It was only in this year we granted the company a mining licence.”
This followed two years of deliberations over their application.